New Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez endured a difficult start to his tenure following a 0-0 draw with freshly promoted Sporting Gijon.
With Karim Benzema missing due to the injury, Benitez opted to play Jese upfront in a new look attack, with Isco, Bale and Ronaldo behind. However, they failed to get the decisive breakthrough.
There are not a lot of positives to be found following this draw, so here is what we can learn from the result:
Bale can threaten in the number 10 role
The world’s most expensive player was Madrid’s danger man in the first half, with Bale playing just behind striker Jese. Bale had been playing on the right wing during his past two seasons in Spain, but Benitez has been told by the board to use the Welshman in his favoured position like he does for his national side.
Bale rounded Sporting’s goalkeeper Cuellar early into the game, but was forced wide and could only find the side netting. His pace appeared to be a clear danger and thorn in the opposition’s side, but most importantly he kept his head up throughout the game despite some disappointing moments, something he failed to do last year.
Bale presumably will continue to play in the central position behind Benzema when the Frenchman returns from injury. Perhaps it could be better to have either Isco or James Rodriguez in their preferred number 10 role. Madrid will play better if they were not so desperate for Bale to succeed and build the team with more balance.
Benitez needs to sign another striker
Jese simply failed to make any sort of impact upfront against Sporting. Although the player is still showing signs of recovering from a long-term injury last season, he was not played in his favoured wing position.
With Benzema currently injured and also being linked to clubs such as Arsenal, Los Blancos look very short of depth upfront this year.
After an hour Jese was replaced by James, which allowed Ronaldo to play as a striker for the remainder of the game, but simply did not look very comfortable.
Credit must go to Sporting’s well organised defence which kept Madrid at bay for the majority of the match; however, Benitez has a wealth of options and depth in other areas, but lacks any real alternative to Benzema.
Luke Modric is back
The Croatian missed a lot of last season through injury and you could see how important Modric is to Madrid’s play.
Modric completed 79 passes in the game and created four chances, including a brilliantly weighted pass for Bale, who unfortunately fluffed his lines.
The midfielder keeps the ball moving and each pass looks to exploit any space in the opposition back line. If Madrid want to challenge for the title again this year they will need Modric to be on-form and fully fit, without the diminutive player their star studded attack will not be given the ammunition to really damage opposition.